Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer

"The greater good? I am the greatest good your ever gonna get!"

At first glance there is little to set The Lincoln Lawyer aside from it's many peers. At second glance you'll realize that you had it right at first glance. The movie just has too many shortfalls to make it into long-term memory. But who says it has to? How many times have we accepted entries in other genres (action is a shining example) singing that old song: "It was a good time." Say what you want about The Lincoln Lawyer- but it at least delivers a good time.

Mathew McConaughey stars as Mick Haller, a cut throat defense lawyer who operates solely out of the back of his Lincoln town car. As sure as I will never spell his name correctly on the first try, you can go into any Mathew McConaughey movie and know that no matter what else he may or may not be (clothed being a decent example) he will most assuredly be charming. They say you should always play to your strengths, and I am man enough to admit that this is one of his. It seems now he's attempting to step away from his position as professional charmer with The Lincoln Lawyer, his first attempt at drama since 2000's U-571. Granted, Lincoln Lawyer is tilted in his favor, as the role calls mainly for charm, sprinkled lightly with drama here and there for flavor.

McConaughey pours on his trademark brand of smooth, but cannot seem to come up with a matching offering in the second department. His dramatic scenes definitely earn a pass on the pass/fail scale, but his effort is obvious and at times even distracting. The same can be said for Ryan Phillippe as the resident bad guy. He excels as the impeccably groomed, unspeakably spoiled rich kid, and shines the brightest when his character is feigning innocence and begging for mercy. But he falls hurtfully short as the remorseless predator, and when he can't seem to tie them all together the character is irrevocably stunted. While the rest of the cast feels a bit wasted for all their talent, I must mention that Michael Pena turns in two distinct and enjoyable performances. Every time I see him I'm left wanting more.

Where story fails to impress, Lincoln lawyer compensates with energy- the one thing it seems to have in spades. We are moved between scenes with a speed just this side of urgent, which in other films might be a complaint, but here serves the overall production well. There are certainly no moments of reflection waiting for you in The Lincoln Lawyer, but they would only slow down a movie that seems to thrive on speed. From the moment the lights go down (or rather twenty minutes after that moment since the abundance of commercials and trailers is a foregone conclusion) your in for an enjoyable but very rocky ride. From the highs of McConaughey's swagger to the lows of ridiculous subplot resolution, one thing is for sure: you won't be checking your watch.

Reel Deal Recommends:
A Time To Kill: Proof that a bad ending doesn't have to kill a great movie.
Breach: Philippe in a spectacular ensemble.
Lions for Lambs: An underrated movie starring Michael Pena

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